Music

Curren$y: Pilot Talk

After toiling for a decade in both Master P's No Limit and Lil' Wayne's Young Money camps, Curren$y strikes a deal with Damon Dash to resurrect Roc-A-Fella Records and, with the help of Ski Beatz, releases the rap record of the year.


Curren$y

Pilot Talk

Label: Def Jam
US Release Date: 2010-07-13
UK Release Date: 2010-07-13
Amazon
iTunes

And so the Blueprint 3 influence begins. Jay-Z's album art depicted a cluster of instruments wedged in the corner of a white room, forgotten and invisible. His point was that these things don't need to be left out of hip-hop. Live bands at hip-hop shows have been the trend for a while -- Jay-Z himself has performed with the Roots on MTV, while Lil' Wayne regularly tours with a band (plus DJ) -- but it's only recently that live instrumentation has really taken a firm place in hip-hop. BlacRoc is the foundation for Pilot Talk, a release inspired by BP3 and Curren$y's intent to appear on the sequel.

There are examples early and often. The guitar on "Example", for example, is very effectively strung out by an electric guitar synced to the tone of Curren$y's stoner urgency and Ski's beat. "Seat Change" benefits from an all-live band set up (in fact, nearly the entire album was replayed by musicians after principle production).

The addition of session musicians on top of the beats -- worth noting because nine of the 13 tracks here have leaked on various blogs as far back as this past winter -- leads to Pilot Talk sounding fuller and more vibrant than any hip-hop album released this year. Easily. "Breakfast", originally produced by Mos Def but rearranged here by the album's main producer Ski (of Camp Lo fame), is particularly noteworthy with its more energetic, funk-oriented approach. The song stretches the original loop while adding liberal doses of musicality normally reserved for the likes of J Dilla and the CunninLynguist's Kno. "Roasted" (which appeared as "Pre-Roasted" on fellow JETS member Trademark's Supervillain mixtape earlier this year) also feels beefier and readier for anybody.

This is a Curren$y album, though. So while the production has me excited, it has to be the artist on the spine that ultimately gives this album a near perfect score. And that dude certainly does deliver. On full disclosure, I've followed this guy since the moment he joined Lil' Wayne's then-fledgling Young Money label and have rooted for him as long as I've been aware of his existence. I have a stake in him, as basic and emotional as it is. But the verses here, they're remarkably solid. Nigh unassailable. When underground heroes like Mos Def, Jay Electronica and Stalley make appearances, they're relegated to second fiddle not for lack of trying, but because Curren$y refuses to be the No. 2 MC on a given track. Each verse he lays down on the album is so full of humor, character and technicality that I feel equally as stunned as Big Boi's album.

But there are a lot of guests here, and that's really where the album catches you off guard. "Roasted" and "Skybourne", for example, will feel like mixtape tracks to people who find those collaborations familiar, but on repeated listens, the verses that originally feel rehashed begin to expose their charm and individuality. Devin the Dude, for example, appears most tokenly on "Chilled Coughphee" but manages to turn in perhaps his most technical, rhyme-oriented verse in a decade. And the JETS homies Trademark and Young Roddy turn in definitive verses in their young careers; not statements of virtuosity or relevance, but certainly of talent and charisma. Nesby Phips continues to tease with a great guest verse on his amazing beat. Mikey Rocks and Snoop Dogg are the two losers here: Mike might be able to sleepwalk through a non-Chuck Inglish track without aggravating anyone, but Snoop's Def Poetry-style verse is going to leave a number of passersby shaking their heads in disbelief. Knowing the song was originally intended to book right-hand man Wiz Khalifa prior to label drama only makes it hurt more.

Curren$y is more focused than your favorite rapper. His producer(s) and his label are more supportive than your favorite label. And despite his narrow subject matter, his creativity within that lane is such that you hardly notice the familiar motifs. The album is southern, it's mid-90s east coast jazz rap, it's west coast playful. It's without a doubt the best hip-hop release of 2010, and might as well get ready to earn praise in the smart circles as one of the best overall releases of the year as well. The best argument I can make for Curren$y as a rapper is that Mos Def is relegated to a mere hype man on two separate tracks, dropping by for a chorus and some brief non-sequiturs. As much as anything, it's the respect given to Curren$y by his peers that certifies Pilot Talk among not only the year's best, but the genre's.

9

In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

Keep reading... Show less
Features

The Best Country Music of 2017

still from Midland "Drinkin' Problem" video

There are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. Here are ten of our favorites.

Year to year, country music as a genre sometimes seems to roll on without paying that much attention to what's going on in the world (with the exception of bro-country singers trying to adopt the latest hip-hop slang). That can feel like a problem in a year when 58 people are killed and 546 are injured by gun violence at a country-music concert – a public-relations issue for a genre that sees many of its stars outright celebrating the NRA. Then again, these days mainstream country stars don't seem to do all that well when they try to pivot quickly to comment on current events – take Keith Urban's muddled-at-best 2017 single "Female", as but one easy example.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

Scholar Judith May Fathallah's work blurs lines between author and ethnographer, fan experiences and genre TV storytelling.

In Fanfiction and the Author: How Fanfic Changes Popular Culture Texts, author Judith May Fathallah investigates the progressive intersections between popular culture and fan studies, expanding scholarly discourse concerning how contemporary blurred lines between texts and audiences result in evolving mediated practices.

Keep reading... Show less
8

Which is the draw, the art or the artist? Critic Rachel Corbett examines the intertwined lives of two artists of two different generations and nationalities who worked in two starkly different media.

Artist biographies written for a popular audience necessarily involve compromise. On the one hand, we are only interested in the lives of artists because we are intrigued, engaged, and moved by their work. The confrontation with a work of art is an uncanny experience. We are drawn to, enraptured and entranced by, absorbed in the contemplation of an object. Even the performative arts (music, theater, dance) have an objective quality to them. In watching a play, we are not simply watching people do things; we are attending to the play as a thing that is more than the collection of actions performed. The play seems to have an existence beyond the human endeavor that instantiates it. It is simultaneously more and less than human: more because it's superordinate to human action and less because it's a mere object, lacking the evident subjectivity we prize in the human being.

Keep reading... Show less
3
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image